Carlsen's 3027 performance at the Tata Steel India Rapid 2019

by Sagar Shah
11/25/2019 – Magnus Carlsen performed at an astronomical Elo of 3027 at the Tata Steel Chess India 2019 Rapid. He scored 15.0/18, with six wins and three draws. According to Magnus, this was his best performance ever in rapid format. He gained 36.8 Elo points, taking his rapid rating to 2885. He also overtook MVL and thus became World no.1 in rapid. Hikaru Nakamura took the second spot with 11.0/18 and Wesley So was third. The tournament has not yet ended of course — we've moved to the blitz section with 18 more rounds to be played. The cumulative score of both the formats will determine the winner. A detailed day three report from the National Library in Kolkata.

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Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.


Who says chess is not a spectator sport?

For years we have had the impression that chess is not a spectator's sport. But at the Tata Steel Chess India 2019 things looked much different, with a full house and over 550 seats in the auditorium.

In fact on the far side you can even see people standing just to get a glimpse of what is going on!The question is, how can the audience see what is going on in the games. Aren't the boards too far? Not really. This is the setting:

The huge screen is where people can see the games with the moves, while for the expressions, they can have a look at the player's faces!

The main difference I see in India is that instead of tweaking the way in which you present chess to accommodate people who do not understand the game, focus is on teaching chess to more kids. When someone knows the rules of chess, it is quite natural that he is going to enjoy this spectacle. After all, the best chess players in the world have gathered in the country!

I went to day three an hour before the scheduled start and immediately was surrounded by youngsters who are chess lovers and followers of ChessBase India

I asked them about their favourite players and the overwhelming majority were Carlsen and Anand fans. But then we also had the Vidit fans, the Ding Liren fans and more! Chess is truly becoming more and more popular in India.

Check out the excitement of these youngsters!

Being a Sunday, we definitely had more people coming to the venue and the first round of the day (seventh round of the rapid section) was Magnus Carlsen taking on Vishy Anand.

This is the first time Carlsen and Anand are playing against each other on Indian soil since 2013

The two titans were playing against each other on Indian soil after a gap of six years. The last time was in Chennai back in 2013 where a 22-year-old Magnus defeated Vishy to be crowned as the World Champion of classical chess. Quite naturally, their encounter today evoked a lot of nostalgia attracting audiences from far and wide and, oh boy(!), all of that did live every bit up to its expectations.

The Madras Tiger had the black pieces and went for some very ambitious play in the Ragozin variation of Queen's Gambit Declined. But at the end of what was a fiery nail-biting melee, it was the Norwegian phenom who emerged triumphant. Vishy created some fascinating complications out of the opening, going for the blood right from the word go. But the ever steady Magnus proved too difficult to crack. In a wildly double-edged position the Indian made one inaccuracy on move 19 and only that was enough for the World Champion to rip his opponent apart. 


The above was the most critical moment in the game. As is clearly visible, the position is quite complex and double-edged with Black trying to force his way on the queenside by exploiting the weakened c3 pawn and White hoping to use his extra material and get counter chances on the kingside via the potentially dangerous c1-h6 diagonal. Vishy opted here for the move 19...e8, perhaps with idea of stopping e3-e4 but this proved to be a fatal error as this allowed White to consolidate his position with 20.f2! and after 20...b5 21. e4 dxe4 22. xc4 bxc4 23.g5+ White was simply crashing through.

The most logical move here instead of 19...e8 would have been 19...g3, taking control of the critical f2 square and keeping the white king sort of stuck in the middle. If now White chooses 20.e4 then Black always has 20...♜e8 after which he is just fine. Magnus was lagging behind in development and Vishy at this point had to keep it that way. After the Indian maestro made this crucial slip it was all Magnus for the rest of the game.


Anand vs Carlsen - Round 7

For Magnus this win was a huge confidence booster. At the press conference he mentioned, "In the past Vishy used to outcalculate me in such complicated positions. So it felt nice to do that against him!" 

Magnus' press conference after the final round of rapid

After Vishy's loss, the Indian contingent suffered the second blow in round seven when Vidit Gujrathi went down against Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia. Vidit had the black pieces and played a solid game against Nepo's Scotch opening and it was only on move 39 he made the decisive mistake that landed him in a worse minor piece ending with an inferior bishop.

Vidit could have held his game against Nepomniachtchi, but went down in the endgame after making some inaccuracies 


Instead 39...c7 was a bad move. Can you see how White exploited this error?

Well, in the game Nepo played 40.b3! and this is indeed a very strong move. After the literally forced exchange of queens with 40...xc4 41.xc4 xc4 the white knight clearly stood much superior than the black bishop and the outside passed a-pawn meant that all pawn endgames were winning for White. The game followed 42.c3 d5 43.c5 b6 44.b4 h5 45.a5+ a7 and with that the c5 knight and a5 pawn together became self-immune, all other white pawns were already safe by the virtue of being on dark squares which meant the white king could travel to the kingside and take hold of the weak f6, g5 squares there. This very simple and standard winning plan was executed to perfection by the Russian super GM. Vidit had to resign after struggling for 60 moves.


Vidit suffered his second defeat of the day in the hands of Levon Aronian in the final round of the rapid event. The number three ranked player of the country finished at the bottom of the rank-list with a sombre score of 6.0/18 points. His defeat in the last round too was caused due to some inaccurate play in the endgame. Let us have a look at the decisive turn of this encounter. 


White prepares to lash out with f4.

Notice that Black has an extra piece on board but White has pinned the knight on e6. Therefore, essentially it is Black who has to play carefully as White has an excellent pawn majority on the kingside ready to march down the board, while Black's king is exposed and weak. 


Vidit played the move 30...a4 with the idea of bringing his a7 rook out via a5 but this turned out to be a mistake.

The best way to counter Aronian's kingside onslaught would have been 30...♜d8! 31.f4 ♜d5! and 31.♗xe6 is met with ♝xe6 32.♖xe6 ♝xf2! - this forces equality and after 32.♗xd5 cxd5 33.♖e5 Black's pair of bishops gives him excellent chances, 33...♝c7 34.♖xd5 ♝xf4 is roughly equal. In the game White was really able to get his pawns rolling down the board wrecking havoc.


Nakamura managed to score a fine win against Wesley So

Magnus Carlsen was absolutely on rampage today and could have actually scored a hat-trick of wins. In round eight he found a decisive advantage with black pieces against Harikrishna Pentala but quite surprisingly ended up misplaying a rook-pawn ending to settle for just a draw.

Harikrishna had three lost positions on day three against Giri, Carlsen and Anand! He saved all of them! | Photo: Amruta Mokal 


Black wins here clearly with 63...♚e4, after 64.♔xg3 ♜a1 65.a6 ♜g1+ Black forces the king to the h-file, stops the white pawns on a-file, and his own advanced e-pawn gives him a decisive edge. In the game Magnus erred with 63...xa4 and the game fizzled out into a draw after 64.xg3 e4 65.b6 a1 66.xe6+. It was quite a narrow escape for Harikrishna.


Harikrishna's game against Magnus Carlsen

"Hari Houdini" explains how he managed to save three lost positions against three of the best players in the world - Giri, Carlsen and Anand. We ask him how he managed to do this!

'Hari Houdini' escape explained by the man himself

Magnus was quite upset with the fact that he drew a winning game against Harikrishna. In the final round the World Champion struck again with a victory and this time against the Chinese star Ding Liren. In this game Magnus converted a slight edge in his hallmark style when Ding went wrong on move 38.


This was an equal position and Black could have continued solidly here with 38..♛d1 after which White is simply not able to make any progress. Ding however played 38...a5 here, can you see how this gave Magnus the chance to strike instantly?

38...a5 is a mistake because it weakens Black's queenside situation. Magnus recognized this and immediately went 39.e2 attacking the b5 pawn.


And next on move 44, White got the chance to exchange queens. The resulting endgame was clearly better for the Norwegian.

After the game Magnus said:

In the last game I wanted to play it fairly safe. So we get this position where I have an extra pawn, and he has the bishop pair, so basically it's just equal. I felt that I wasn't risking so much and for the tournament situation it was a good choice. I felt that Ding might not show the necessary patience required in defence and that is exactly what happened! He got a bit frustrated with making most of the defensive moves and reacting to my ideas. And when this happens things can go astray very soon. You could see this in the game. I got a little more ground each time. And Ding missed a few things and I won.



Carlsen watches Anand and Harikrishna's endgame | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

One of the best qualities of Carlsen is his love and interest for chess. Here we see, he has already beaten Ding Liren and has finished on top of the table in the rapid. Yet, he stands and has a look at the game between Anand and Harikrishna. He wants to calculate the intricacies!

Over to Blitz now!

Magnus now has a four point lead over the field after the rapid section. The final winner will be announced after the blitz section. Note in rapid, each win gives you two points, while in blitz it's the standard scoring with 1 point.

Carlsen takes a healthy lead into the blitz tournament

Carlsen was unstoppable as he scored two wins and a draw, scoring five points on each day | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Carlsen scored wins against Ding Liren, Vishy Anand, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri. Surprisingly Carlsen was held to a draw by Wesley So and two wild cards — Harikrishna and Vidit. Going into 18 rounds of blitz, Carlsen now has a four point lead over the field. It remains to be seen if someone can stop him, but as of now Force Magnus has taken over the city of Kolkata by storm!

Hikaru Nakamura scored 11.0/18 to finish second in the Rapid section | Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

Wesley So scored 9.0/18 and finished third | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Anish Giri would be looking for a better show in the blitz | Photo: Amruta Mokal

He scored 50% in rapid but was unable to convert many better positions.

The Superbet Rapid and Blitz winner Levon Aronian | Photo: Amruta Mokal

He showed his class in his wins over Harikrishna and Vidit. However, he was not the most consistent player in the event as he lost promising positions to Carlsen and Anand.

Anand squandering a winning position against Hari left them both at 8.0/18 | Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

Vidit captures a nice photo of Ding in the green and beautiful environment of the national library! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Ding scored 8.0/18 and would not be pleased with his -1 performance.

Nepomniachtchi's play in the tournament wasn't very inspiring with 7.0/18 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

However Nepomniachtchi did inspire some of the Indians to have a new hairstyle!

Now that guy definitely looks like a Nepo fan! | Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

Vidit with his biggest support at the tournament — his sister Vedika | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vidit finished with 6.0/18, and will be looking forward to bounce back in blitz.

The trophy will be won by the person who has the highest cumulative score in rapid and blitz | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Replay all Rapid games


Final rapid standings



Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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